FRESNO CAMPUS - The U.S. Education Department released a final rule Friday that will bar certain students who have been convicted on drug charges in state or federal court from receiving Pell Grants, student loans, and other kinds of federal financial aid.
The rule, published in the October 21 Federal Register, is not significantly different from a version proposed in July. However, in response to comments from college officials and representatives of loan-guarantee agencies, the new rule clarifies the severity of the aid cutoff, and assures colleges that they will not be expected to certify whether students pass the drug-conviction test.
Under the new rule, the department will treat a conviction for multiple counts of drug possession or multiple counts of sales as a single conviction. People responding to the proposed rule were unclear how a conviction on multiple counts would be treated.
When the rule takes effect, on July 1, 2000, the government will withhold aid eligibility for one year from people with a first conviction on a drug-possession offense, two years for a second conviction, and indefinitely for a third conviction. A student convicted of selling drugs will lose eligibility for two years for a first conviction and indefinitely for a second conviction.
Some of the commenters asked the department to clarify how long it meant by "indefinitely." The new rule says the indefinite penalties will be permanent, unless a student satisfactorily completes a drug-rehabilitation program, or the conviction is reversed or set aside.
College officials also asked for, and received, a clear assurance in the new rule that they will not be required to question financial-aid applicants about possible drug convictions. Students will be asked to "self-certify" any criminal record on their federal-aid forms, and department officials or contractors will review the information.
[Editor's Note: The new Federal Regulations apply only to a student's eligibility for title IV, HEA program funds for award years beginning on or after July 1, 2000. However, convictions that occur before July 1, 2000 may affect a student's eligibility for title IV, HEA program funds as of July 1, 2000. For example, a student convicted for the first time for possession of a controlled substance on February 1, 2000 will be ineligible from July 1, 2000 (the effective date of the regulations) until February 1, 2001 (one year from the date of conviction). You may view this document in text or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet at the following sites: (Fed Regs) ( HEA Rules).]